Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Going Green to Be Seen: A Status Ploy

We see it everyday but fail to recognize it. We don’t take everything into consideration and thought, especially if it means being proenvironmental. We’ll splurge twice the price for organic produce for our health, spend extra on a high MPG car to save gas money, and buy recycled products because we care about the environment. We go green for a purpose that resides in our values, right?

You may have noticed lately that the rich neighbor down the block has decided to invest in a Prius instead of an Audi, and you wonder why. You’ve seen them at local charity events dressed to the hilt in name brand clothes, but never got the feeling they truly cared about the environment like you do. But as you see them use green products and carry organic produce in their house you can’t question their motives, until anow.

A study released, Going Green to be Seen: Status, Reputation, and Conspicuous Conservation has shown results that status-seeking individuals will buy green products more often if they are more expensive (Griskevicius et. al, 2010). They see that the product has a higher price tag and know that it shows they care in a public way. Status seeking people want to show off in the most blatant ways, hence the Prius parked out front of the mansion. They didn't necessarily buy that car because they truly valued less pollution. They payed ten thousand more dollars for cheap fabric seats because it shows the public they care, or at least gives off the idea.

Griskevicus et al. explain how corporations see this happening among the population and market their products accordingly. Companies purposely raise their prices because they know people who want to look like they care will buy them, but only if they are more expensive than their non-green counterpart. Methods in the study showed correlations only when the price of the green products was higher than the non-green product.

Altruism and self-sacrifice used to be an attribute to show that a person truly cares. Psychologists found it hard to believe that anybody could honestly have an altruistic lifestyle because it goes against basic survival skills. Now altruism is thrown in the same realm as people who want to climb the social ladder, making it less believable that it could be a charactaristic of someones personality. GreenAnswers members know that going green is not just to spend extra money, but to save money and the earth. Investing in a company that is taking advantage of caring individuals is ridiculous. We have concerns about our environment while other people are hanging around waiting for green products to get off the sale rack to show their fake-caring attitudes.

We’re in a recession and it is not leaving anytime soon. CNN reported last week that it could be around for another 6-7 years, but what do those economists know? We know that saving money is never a bad thing, recycling should not signal that a person is poor, and being frugal should be praised. Will we ever see the rich, status seeking people shopping in a thrift store? No, because they don’t care about recycling clothes and saving money. They care about being a symbol and spending whatever it costs, including sacrificing ideals, to be the symbol of now. Reputation is more valuable than money to them. Those who are seeking approval from the public will never be truly happy. They will always be reaching for the next best thing and paying as much as they need to be it. True happiness lies within what values we uphold, specifically caring about the environment because we love the earth a bit more than our reputation.
Of course being green should be praised, such as awarding companies for being the most environmentally friendly. The competition should never come amongst individuals though, because going green is not a race. It is about caring for our environment and working together to make the world a more sustainable place.

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